Traveling Programs

A Year in the Life: The Oregon Jewish Immigrant Experience

The Oregon Jewish Museum is pleased to offer, at no cost, a powerful enrichment program for 3rd-5th grade classrooms. This program satisfies Oregon State Benchmarks for learning in a variety of areas, including social studies, history, English, art, math, and geography.

Students learn that the first Jews came to Oregon in the 1850s. These immigrants chose Oregon for the same reasons other immigrant groups did – they believed that land, resources, opportunities, and freedoms would be abundantly available to them in the lush Northwest. Since that time of immigration and migration, Jews have remained a thriving part of Oregon’s population.  

What’s Inside?

A Year in the Life: The Oregon Jewish Immigrant Experience is housed entirely in a replica steamer trunk. We focus on the story of 19-year-old Chaim, a fictional account of his first year in the United States, with all its attendant challenges and new adventures. Set in 1904, we follow Chaim’s adventures through the months, looking to many of the typical experiences of an eastern European immigrant of that era.

An extensive teacher’s guide, suggested student activities, and a dynamic collection of era-specific archive materials support A Year in the Life. These materials, comprising more than 30 objects, 25 images, and 10 historical documents, provide students with a hands-on opportunity to connect with an immigrant’s life. Each month has been designed to highlight a different facet of the historical immigrant experience, and is pared with a collection of 2-D and 3-D objects chosen to bring that theme to life.

The challenges facing our fictional character Chaim mirror the struggles of many immigrants to the United States. Students explore these obstacles – learning English, finding a job, adapting to American culture – and are posed with the difficult universal questions of identity and belonging. How much to acculturate? What do we retain? How to make a new life in a foreign country?  

We believe that the real power of the trunk is in its universal appeal. While it does impart a specific story of a Jewish immigrant, Chaim’s story highlights the similarities of our collective stories as Americans.

To schedule a trunk email

It’s Jewish! A Jewish Things Showcase

Invite an OJM educator to come into your classroom with our special objects box for younger children. It’s full of things that help your students learn about Jewish life and includes objects that they can handle and photographs that they can look at.

Students will have the opportunity to "play curator" with the items in the box. Each participating student will wear professional cotton archiving gloves that curators use when they handle special objects. Students will be introduced to the experience of holding objects and they will also learn something about Jewish life.
In addition to viewing and handling objects in the box, students will take part in a hands on activity to "catalogue" one of the items.  They will also have a chance to create their own drawing as a record of their visit. This box is perfect for young age groups who have had little or no exposure to Jewish customs or traditions.
This collection is available free of charge to any interested groups.    
To schedule a visit to your classroom email